JAMES McClean is unlikely to be a long-term option on the right flank after tactical reasons prompted the Ireland international’s re-location against Stoke City.
McClean has predominantly been used as a natural left winger since breaking into Sunderland’s first-team 18 months ago, although he has been fleetingly used on the right both for the Black Cats and at international level.
Sunderland head coach Paolo Di Canio made a surprise decision to switch the 24-year-old to the right for last Monday’s visit of Stoke City, with Jack Colback operating down the left.
But McClean struggled to make any impact in the role, before Craig Gardner’s sending off prompted a reshuffle that saw the former Derry City man revert to the left wing.
Di Canio says McClean’s foray on the right was purely tactical though and he believed that route was the best way to profit against the Potters.
That is likely to signal McClean returning to the left for tomorrow’s crunch clash against Southampton, as Sunderland look to secure the win which would secure their Premier League status.
“It’s difficult for him on the right,” admitted Di Canio.
“He doesn’t have the same tricks as Adam (Johnson) and I knew that it would be difficult for James to come inside.
“But I used him on the right because Stoke have (Charlie) Adam on the left, who plays deep.
“It was a tactical thing.
“I thought Danny (Rose) and Jack could destroy them on the left side, where they play with (Ryan) Shotton, who is very tall, but has long legs.
“James is not fast, fast, whereas Jack is a bulldog.”
Di Canio admits that McClean was a far more effective force in the second half after being redeployed to the more natural surroundings of the left.
And the Italian believes Johnson was also more effective when Sunderland were reduced to 10 men after moving to the right from the role in behind Danny Graham.
He added: “There was an imbalance. In the second half, it’s clear he was better and also Adam was able to express himself on the other side.”